- A Short Life of Martin Luther by Thomas Kaufmann
This brief introduction to Luther's life and thought is a translation of Kaufmann's Martin Luther, published in German in 2006 and now in its fifth edition. In just over 100 pages, Kaufmann manages to cover in surprising depth Luther's biography, theology, self-understanding, and subsequent influence on history. While some details and nuance are lost in this truncated genre, Kaufmann presents both a coherent picture of Luther and a thoughtful consideration of the ways in which he remains enigmatic.
The first two chapters focus on the varied history of Luther interpretation and Luther's life and times, respectively. The third chapter, the longest by far, covers his theological endeavors. Kaufmann frames Luther's theology not in loci, but instead within his context and vocations: his biblical translation and publishing, his work as a professor and a preacher, his worldview and concerns, his roles as father and citizen, and his views of the church. A final section in this chapter also takes on the pointed issue of Luther's apocalyptic expectation and the combativeness it engendered against all who disagreed with him. A brief epilogue reflects on Luther's faith and its consequences for Christianity.
The translators must be commended for making Kaufmann's German read clearly—and even elegantly—in English. This little book is a readable and discerning treatment of a complex subject, and the author's reflections on Luther's legacy give readers much to consider. A helpful timeline of Luther's life, a map of sixteenth-century Germany, and a reprinting of the Ninety-five Theses add to its usefulness as a primer on one of Christian history's most controversial figures. [End Page 822]